The Daily Beast reports, based on sources, "Trump has told close associates that he wishes to counter-program the Biden town hall and score higher TV viewership numbers, and then use such a contrast in ratings to humiliate his Democratic opponent. Predictably, Trump also wants his 2020 team to make a big deal out of pushing out those numbers, should his hour’s ratings beat Biden’s 90-minute event...To Trump aides and veterans, the president’s TV ratings obsession is nothing new, particularly when an election is in full swing. And it’s an obsession of the president’s that has refused to fade even as he has dealt with increasingly dire polling data and a still-raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 215,000 Americans." While the Biden campaign wouldn't comment on the record, a source close to the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign tells The Daily Beast: "It’s an irresponsible and selfish move by NBC. If they’re going to allow Donald Trump an hour of air time to spread disinformation about COVID and repeat his greatest hits of lies and conspiracy theories, they ought to at least do it an hour later and let voters hear from both candidates. Broadcast networks have a role in our Democratic process, and NBC doesn’t seem to be taking theirs very seriously today.”
NBC reportedly wanted Trump to have "parity" with Biden's town hall, which meant having both town halls on at the same time: "ABC announced a town hall with Biden almost a week ago!" says CNN's Brian Stelter. "So why in the world did NBC schedule Trump at the exact same time? Hang with me, there are reasons... wonky and unsatisfying reasons, perhaps, but...When ABC announced the Biden town hall, it did not specify a time slot. Execs at NBC expected that ABC would schedule Biden at 9pm, since ABC's TRUMP town hall had started at 9. NBC planners eyed the 8pm hour for Trump, since that's when their BIDEN event took place. On Sunday, ABC said Biden would be on from 8 to 9:30pm. Reason: It had been planning to do pre-debate coverage at 8 that night. So the news division had blocked off the time. At this point, NBC was still in talks w/ the Trump camp, and could have shifted to 9/9:30/10, but didn't. Why? The best answer I've heard from sources today is 'parity:' Biden was on NBC at 8, so Trump will be on NBC at 8. But some NBC staffers are perturbed: 'We're giving Trump exactly what he wants,' a made-by-TV rivalry between the prez and the former VP. Did the Trump campaign demand the head-to-head time slot? I don't know." Stelter also points out that Thursday "will be the most substantive interview of Trump since he came down with COVID. He has been calling into pro-Trump shows but has steered clear of the press corps. @SavannahGuthrie will have plenty of time to ask him Q's."
NBC faces backlash over dueling town halls -- Katie Couric calls it a "bad decision": "NBC offered Trump the same time period that was given to Biden," reports the Los Angeles Times' Stephen Battaglio. "Scheduling the town hall at 9 or 10 p.m. Eastern would have given Trump access to more viewers, as the number of homes watching television in those hours is higher. The division also will make its event available on its streaming platforms after it airs live on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo." Meanwhile, NBC News alum Couric tweeted: "Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy-voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will. This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision."
Dueling town halls are good for network business, and brings the Today vs. GMA rivalry to primetime: "Even the two networks’ choice of moderators puts an accent on their long-simmering contretemps. George Stephanopoulos, a critical part of Good Morning America, will manage the on-air proceedings for ABC’s Biden event, while Savannah Guthrie, the co-anchor of Today will keep things together at the Trump event for NBC," reports Variety's Brian Steinberg. "The broadcasts of those programs the morning after will no doubt feature the anchors offering up their first remarks on how they interacted with the candidates – another way to draw audiences to one network or the other. News was once seen as secondary to the business of airing primetime dramas and comedies, but as more viewers migrate to streaming services for video entertainment, live as-it-happens programming is what draws big audiences to screens in linear fashion. There’s a reason why ABC and NBC have begun ceding more of their primetime schedules to 20/20 specials and pop-up town halls and on-topic discussions, particularly as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. News is often cheaper to produce than an hour-long drama and it’s more relevant and current than any episode scripted and shot weeks in advance of its air date."